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St. Mary's girls claim first crown

EUGENE — A tiny miscalculation resulted in one of the biggest moments in St. Mary's athletics history at the state cross country championships Saturday.

The Crusaders' Emily Reeder was intent on staying with a rival runner, knowing it was important to the aspirations St. Mary's had of winning the school's first girls team state title. The freshman believed she was keeping up with the fifth or sixth runner for Catlin Gabel, the defending champion and Class 3A/2A/1A team favorite.

"As it turned out," Reeder said, smiling, "it was their No. 3 girl. That's why I ran so fast."

It's why she finished 22nd overall and 14th among team runners. It's why she established a 47-second personal record on a course reluctant to allow them. And it's a big reason why the Crusaders have a board to hang in the school's gym signifying, finally, the elusive girls crown.

Sophomore Mary Bennion held true to form and led the way with a runner-up finish as St. Mary's scored 63 points, two ahead of Catlin Gabel. Heritage Christian was third with 80 points.

Lakeview sophomore Ashley Baldovino ran off with her second individual crown, covering the 5,000-meter course at Lane Community College in 18 minutes, 51 seconds. Bennion clocked 19:12, and Crusaders teammate Morgan Martin was eighth in 19:43.

Among other highlights for local girls teams and runners, South Medford placed eighth in Class 6A; Ashland placed fifth in 5A, led by Aria Hemphill; and Phoenix was fourth in 4A, earning its first trophy and getting a top-10 placing from Jordi Hurd.

St. Mary's entered the meet knowing Bennion and Martin couldn't exceed expectations for team points because they already ranked among the state's best. It came down to their teammates, said coach Joe Volk, who reveled in his highest team finish in 26 years of coaching, including 21 at St. Mary's.

"It really came down to those middle girls," he said, "and they did a great job."

Indeed, all three — Rebecca Tribelhorn, Reeder and Elise Marquart — bagged season PRs. Tribelhorn was 17th overall in 20:16, a best by 17 seconds; Reeder was at 20:43; Marquart ran 21:43, improving 35 seconds and placing 47th.

"I knew they had the intestinal fortitude to run big meets," said Volk, noting the Crusaders' several victories. "I just didn't know what would happen at state."

This could be a precursor of future state meets. Juniors Tribelhorn and Marquart are the elder statesgirls.

In fact, Bennion is just getting started. She didn't turn out for competitive running until last spring during track at North Medford, from which she transferred prior to this school year. She just missed out on going to state in the 3,000 meters last spring and eagerly immersed herself in cross country this fall.

When it came time Saturday to call on energy reserves during the chilly, first race of the day, she found them.

She reached the stadium track for the final 300 meters with Catlin Gabel's Hayley Ney by her side.

"I was gonna just let it go," said Bennion, "but I realized my body was numb anyways, so I might as well go because I couldn't feel it. That's what's good about the cold."

The final impetus she needed came 50 meters later, when she heard her father cheering.

"I heard my dad yell, 'This is what you trained for during the fall "¦ you can do it,'" said Bennion. "Just that encouragement helped me so much."

She put on a burst and was able to hold of Ney by two seconds.

South Medford, meanwhile, scored 218 points, placing eighth and getting a 25th—place effort from Piper Delaney. She was timed in 19:44.

Ashland, the defending girls champion, scored 141 points. The senior Hemphill was clocked in 19:58.

By placing fourth, Phoenix bettered the sixth place it earned two years ago. Hurd's time was 19:52. Teammates Anne Hagy and Kayla Heath were 12th and 15th, respectively.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

St. Mary’s Morgan Martin (93) and Mary Bennion (89) run with the lead pack around the soccer bowl at LCC.